Causes and Treatment of Dog Pneumonia

Table of Contents

Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment


"Dog pneumonia requires immediate examination by a veterinarian. The primary symptom is coughing. Your Veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics to treat the bacterial infection."


Canine pneumonia is an infection and inflammation of the lungs and the bronchi, which are the tubes carrying air into the lungs. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection. It is most common in dogs under one year of age. Dogs can die from pneumonia if they do not receive treatment. It occurs in dog's that have inhaled the bacteria that causes the disease or contracted from other tissue in the body.


The most notable canine pneumonia symptom is coughing. Other symptoms include:

  • Frequent cough with mucous secretions
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing or panting
  • Nasal discharge (not a common symptom)
  • Fever (in only 50% of cases)
  • Lethargic Behavior
  • Loss of appetite
  • Refusal to drink/dehydration

You may notice your dog's lips bulging outward when he breathes. If your dog has symptoms of pneumonia, he needs to see a vet as soon as possible.

Canine Pneumonia Diagnosis

Your vet will do a thorough physical exam and listen to your dog's lungs. He or she will take x-rays in order to look at your dog's lungs. Dog pneumonia will show up on the x-rays. A bronchoscope can be used to look at the bronchi, but this is an invasive procedure that must be done under anesthesia and is usually not necessary.

Canine pneumonia is often a secondary disease, meaning it results from some other problem. Therefore your vet will examine your dog for other respiratory illnesses such as parasites or other problems that may have led to the development of pneumonia. Sometimes a simple virus like a cold turns into pneumonia.


As long as your dog is eating and drinking well, he can be treated at home. He will be on antibiotics for about three weeks. Different types of bacteria respond to different antibiotics, so your veterinarian might mix two kinds together. During that time, you will need to monitor him closely. If his condition seems to be getting worse, you'll need to get him back to the vet. Make sure you give him the full course of antibiotics, even if he seems to be feeling better.

To help clear your dogs chest of mucus and secretions your veterinarian may recommend fluid therapy to maintain optimal hydration, airway humidification with a nebulizer or vaporizer and bronchodilation (using the medications theophylline, terbutaline, or albuterol to open the bronchial tubes). Physical therapy including mild exercise and chest percussion/vibration ("chest clapping") to promote cough, lung expansion, and mobilization of retained respiratory secretions. Avoid any antitussive drugs that would suppress the cough reflex.

Over-the-counter cough medicines have limited impact on pneumonia. Supplemental oxygen (oxygen cage, nasal oxygen tube) can be help if there is an inadequate supply of oxygen in the blood (severe hypoxemia) and difficulty breathing (dyspnea).

Many dogs with pneumonia require hospitalization. They may require IV fluids for dehydration, humidified oxygen to help them breathe, and percussion of the thorax to help loosen and remove secretions.

When your dog goes home, a follow-up appointment with the vet will be scheduled. Repeat x-rays may be taken at this appointment to check your dog's recovery process.

If your dog frequently gets respiratory infections like pneumonia consider adding a supplement to their diet designed to promote the health of the respiratory system. Pet Alive offers a herbal dog respiratory condition solution made for this purpose. While this isn't a substitute for prescription medication, check with your veterinarian if it is something that could help or complement other treatment options.


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